A Glimpse of Greatness

Posted by David Hopkins on April 9, 2013 under Commentary | Be the First to Comment

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“Know me… and know fear.” – Galactus, Devourer of Worlds

This offseason, Mark Cuban and Donnie Nelson will need to look at the current roster and evaluate which players are a priority. It’s difficult to decide if a good game represents a glimpse of greatness or a fleeting moment. In other words: should we expect more from them or are these anomalies, outliers, from subpar players? Of course, consistency would be nice, but so few of the new players this season were consistent.

To help Cuban and Nelson, I offer my rundown of “best games” from the players who had their first season in Dallas (thus, no Brandan Wright, but I already covered him last week). I also limited my list to players who had significant minutes this season (no Anthony Morrow or Jared Cunningham).

Elton Brand
Best game: December 1st vs. Detroit, Mavs win 92 to 77
Stats of note: 17 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 blocks
From the game recap, Kirk Henderson wrote: “A healthy round of applause for Elton Brand (17 points, 12 rebounds) is in order. While its exciting to see Mayo shoot well, seeing Brand hit those 10 to 15 foot jump shots was such a relief. Last season Brand shot a fantastic 45% clip from that section of the floor and was a big reason many were initially so excited to pair him with Dirk who would, in theory, open up the floor for Brand the way he has for so many others. Prior to tonight’s game though, Brand has shot an absurd 23% from that range. Tonight Brand hit three shots in that area and it forced the Detroit defense to close out on him, thus opening the floor for his five makes at the rim.” “Brand’s confidence on offense bled over into his defense; his four blocks helped keep the momentum in favor of the Mavericks. Pairing him with Bernard James (six points, 3 rebounds) was a different look for Dallas in the second quarter. It’s probably a rare sight though, both Brand and James are around 6’9″ and Carlisle was looking to steal minutes while Chris Kaman was in foul trouble.”
My thoughts: Elton Brand averages a double-double per 36 minutes, but he’s not going to get 36 minutes from the Mavericks. While he may be the most balanced (offensive and defensive) player on the Mavs—with Shawn Marion certainly in that mix—Brand isn’t going to be a high priority in the off season.

Darren Collison
Best game: December 27th vs. Oklahoma City, Mavs lose 105 to 111
Stats of note: 32 points, 4 assists, and 4 steals
From the game recap, Connor Huchton wrote: “For three quarters of this game, the Mavericks controlled the tempo. The offense produced wonderfully, mostly due to an outstanding game from Darren Collison (13-22 FG, 4-4 3PT, 32 points, five rebounds, four assists, four steals, three turnovers) and the efforts of Chris Kaman (7-14 FG, 17 points, eight rebounds) and Shawn Marion (5-12 FG, 14 points, nine rebounds, seven assists), the latter of which nearly recorded a triple-double.” “And then this happened.”
My thoughts: I might give up on having thoughts about Darren Collison. I just don’t know. Offensively, he can produce for himself, which shouldn’t be scoffed at. Defensively, he doesn’t do much. As a point guard, I would like more games like the one he had against Portland on November 5th (14 points and 13 assists), but he’s just not that guy.

Jae Crowder
Best game: March 12th vs. Milwaukee, Mavs wins 115 to 108
Stats of note: 14 points and 8 rebounds
From the game recap, Connor Huchton wrote: Nothing about Crowder. He was overshadowed by Vince Carter and Dirk Nowitzki.
My thoughts: Crowder is a keeper, the good rookie. There’s no doubt. Heck, Crowder was easily the Mavs’ best player in the preseason. The Mavericks should be very excited to see how he improves during the offseason.

Mike James
Best game: March 24th vs. Utah, Mavs win 113 to 108
Stats of note: 19 points and 5 assists
From the game recap, Connor Huchton wrote: “I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the stellar night of somewhat maligned veteran guard Mike James (7-10 FG, 3-4 3PT, 19 points, five assists). On his best nights, James is a dangerous spot-up three-point shooter and a capable distributor, and tonight was surely one of those nights.”
My thoughts: Mike James is the ultimate itinerant basketball professional, always moving from one team to the next, filling in the gaps. Like abstract sculpture, James operated in the negative space created by the absence of Jason Kidd and Delonte West.

Bernard James
Best game: February 22nd vs. New Orleans, Mavs win 104 to 100.
Stats of note: 4 points, 6 rebounds, and 7 blocks
From the game recap, Connor Huchton wrote: “Bernard James (2-2 FG, four points, six rebounds, seven blocks) played an aesthetically pleasing and effective game tonight. He finished well, rebounded very well, and defended tenaciously. Seven blocks in 15 minutes is pretty impressive, no matter how you view it.”
My thoughts: I was split between this game and the one against Miami on December 20th. That was a loss; this was a win. James played almost 22 minutes in that game (12 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks); in this game, he played 15 minutes. How does one evaluate the potential of a 28-year-old rookie? Could he be a starter in this league? I doubt it, but I would be thrilled if it happened.

Chris Kaman
Best game: April 7th vs. Portland, Mavs win 96 to 91
Stats of note: 26 points and 11 rebounds
From the game recap, Kirk Henderson wrote: “The early Maverick lead was primarily due to Chris Kaman (26 points, 11 rebounds). His first quarter work out of the left wing pick and roll with O.J. Mayo was very effective, scoring three different times in the period. The Blazers elected to hedge the screen with J.J. Hickson, but Mayo was able to split any attempt at a double team with a simple bounce pass which resulted in a Kaman jumper.”
My thoughts: Just when I was about to write off Kaman, he has a game like this and it messes with my head. I want to believe that this is the real Kaman.

O.J. Mayo
Best game: December 8th vs. Houston, Mavs win 116 to 109
Stats of note: 40 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 turnovers
From the game recap, Kirk Henderson wrote: “The battle of the former sixth men O.J. Mayo (40 points, eight rebounds) and James Harden (39 points, nine assists, six rebounds) was fantastic and highly entertaining. Though Mayo has been the best Maverick this season, I’ve still had a number of concerns, particularly if Dallas decides to make a long term offer to him in the off season. With each passing game he is putting those concerns to rest. He’s coming off screens better; in the first quarter he came off a Wright screen near the elbow, caught the pass from Fisher, and made a decisive move to the bucket for a lay in. He’s also reading attempted traps out of the pick and roll like a point guard; in the second quarter the Rockets attempted to trap him high and he found Kaman with a ridiculous bounce pass between the defenders. O.J. Mayo as play maker, whether taking shots or moving the ball, has been a delight to watch. Scoring 16 points in each of the first and final frames was also very impressive.”
My thoughts: For the first time in a long time, Nowitzki wasn’t the top scorer for the Mavs this season. In Nowitzki’s absence, Mayo played very well, which is why it’s so disappointing to see these mediocre games from him lately. He has to be a priority this off-season, but how much of a priority? Which Mayo are the Mavericks paying for? Is his game half-full or half-empty? For me, it depends on who else is brought in. If Mayo were the third best player on the team, I would consider that team in a good place. If he’s the no. 1 or no. 2 guy, then the Mavs need to keep looking.

David Hopkins is a freelance writer – a regular contributor to D Magazine and Smart Pop Books. He is not an outlier. Follow David on Twitter at @davidhopkins.